Is the door to your heart in good repair?

A reflection for the beginning of Lent, adapted from At Home in Lent by Gordon Giles

Behold, I stand and knock

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

Revelation 3:20–22

Have you ever paid any attention to your front door? The lock on mine broke recently, and then I suddenly became very interested in how it works, whether it would work and whether I would actually end up locked in or locked out. So I went to a locksmith and bought a new door lock, and then had some adventures getting the old one off and replacing it. All the while I was aware that if I were to make a mistake then the security of my family and possessions could be jeopardised.

However holy-minded or spiritually aloof one tries to be about one’s stuff, in the end we do worry about these things, and in a modern society do need to be wary of risk and realistic about personal safety and valuables. A front door is not just for keeping people out, of course: it is also for letting them in! As a parish vicar, I frequently open my door to people and have more visitors than most. Occasionally I have visitors who I don’t want to, or should not, let in. I learnt the hard way to be at least a little wary. We all get unwelcome visitors from time to time, selling, buying, conning or manipulating, and we have to engage in that ongoing inner dialogue: ‘Are they genuine?'

When we read the words of Christ as heard by John in the above passage from Revelation, they conjure up images of Jesus on our doorstep, knocking on a door that we have locked from the inside and only we can open. Jesus does not batter the door or break it down. We may wonder whether he comes as stranger or friend.

The artist William Holman Hunt (1827–1910) painted many religious works, but the most famous is undoubtedly The Light of the World. Momentary study reveals that the door has no handle: it can only be opened from within.  The door is the door to our hearts, and knock as loudly as he might, only we can open the door and let Christ in.

It may be a sentimental picture, beloved of the Victorians and easy to feel warm inside about, but the metaphor can be pushed a little when we think of the front doors of our own homes.

The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt

Maintain the door to your heart

Generally, our doors are not merely closed; they are locked. Thus, to open them is a two-stage process. That also assumes that our door has oiled hinges, is unobstructed and that the lock works; that is, as well as our wanting to open the door, it must be physically possible to do so. For, like my vicarage door with the broken lock, our spiritual doors must be maintained and cared for. Generally, we don’t pay attention to things until they break, but maintenance is vital. This, in a deep sense, is what this season of Lent is all about.

As we enter Lent, a period of penitence, self-reflection and self-denial, we may also like to think of it as a time for spiritual maintenance.

Lent can be a seven-week period for making sure that we truly are ‘at home’ to Jesus, that the door of our hearts is open and that the rest of our spiritual home is in good working order. As Lent begins, let us look around our homes in a new, spiritually creative and reflective way.

And remember, today especially, that the place to start is the front door, which can be a metaphorical doorway into the period of Lent, as well as the door we open to let Christ in, so that he can rule our hearts and lead us forward in faith and hope and love.

Lord Jesus, you stand at the threshold of every heart and seek the welcome of an open door. As our doorbells invite us to welcome friends and strangers alike, may we also invite and welcome you as a permanent guest into our lives. Amen


Adapted from At Home in Lent by Gordon Giles (BRF, 2018).